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Duma Travel: Themba Mthombeni

Seized by a desire to travel a new road, Themba Mthombeni left a well paid corporate job to forge his own path in the travel industry.

Juliet Pitman

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Themba Mthombeni

When technological advances threaten a sector, some people see only challenges. Others, like Themba Mthombeni, see opportunities. The founder of Duma Travel, Mthombeni got into the travel agency business when everyone else was getting out. In 2002, the rise of Internet bookings meant travel agents were becoming redundant as increasing numbers of travellers booked their own airline tickets, transfers and accommodation online.

Seeing a gap

“Travel agents had become nothing more than booking clerks and it was clear they needed to offer additional value to their clients if they wanted to survive. I realised that few travel companies were offering strategic services, and I immediately saw a gap to start an agency that leveraged this opportunity,” he says. That was when he left a comfortable job as HR director of De Beers to start Duma Travel. From his own corporate experience and time spent in business consulting, Mthombeni knew that travel is often the second highest corporate expense item after human resources costs. “Previously travel wasn’t seen as a strategic issue, but as travel costs have soared, so the need has arisen for companies to have travel policies in place and to implement cost reduction strategies. Duma Travel was formed specifically for this purpose – we’re a travel partner to corporate organisations and we provide them with the tools to manage travel needs at a strategic level,” he explains.

Redefining an industry

The company offers a range of services including travel audits, assistance in crafting travel policies, research into best practices and how to change traveller behaviour, and change management strategies to ensure policies are implemented properly and rigorously.
“When a company spends tens to hundreds of millions of rands on travel, they want to know where their money is going, and how to reduce the amount they pay out. We help them do that,” Mthombeni says. In redefining the role of a travel agent, Duma Travel has attracted some big name clients who recognise the value it has to offer. They include Old Mutual, PetroSA, the City of Cape Town, and the departments of Home Affairs and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Getting to growth

But it hasn’t always been easy. Looking back on the road he has walked to get Duma Travel to where it is today, Mthombeni says, “Initially, it was a big adjustment to move from a job that had status and comfort, to being a very lonely single operator in a small office.”
He’d invested his own savings in the company, and while he had capital to live off in the early stages, he deliberately downgraded his lifestyle. “I sold my BMW and bought myself an Uno – it’s a small thing but it helped from a psychological point of view. It made me hungry to make a success of things,” he says. “It also made me appreciate small triumphs. I still remember getting excited about my first booking which was for two local airline tickets.” Today the company employs 70 people and has six offices around the country.

Looking ahead

It’s success of which Mthombeni is justifiably proud but it hasn’t dulled his appetite or ambition. “My five-year vision is to be in the top five travel management companies in the country, which implies sales of around R1,5 billion,” he says. He plans to get there by acquiring small businesses in the geographical areas where the company wants to grow its footprint, and this year he will be launching travel incentive extensions to the Duma Travel brand. “We also have plans to launch a corporate conference management division – both of these extensions overlap with our existing core business but will allow us to diversify our offering,” he adds. “Ultimately we want to be a one-stop shop for corporate travel. I have every confidence that we will achieve our goals.” Having once found himself off the beaten track, Mthombeni is now well positioned to open new frontiers in his sector.

Duma Travel
Player Themba Mthombeni
Est.: 2002
Contact: +27 11 326 4009,
+27 83 277 3439
www.dumatravel.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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